Posts Tagged ‘Reprieve’


Juvenile under sentence of death

[This is a post from Reprieve]

Mohammed al-Faraj was 15 when he was arrested while leaving a bowling alley in Medina, Saudi Arabia.  He was tortured into confessing to ‘crimes’ linked to non-violent protesting, including attending a funeral at the age of 9.
By any measure he was a child when these so-called ‘crimes’ took place.

He should not have been arrested and he certainly should not be facing a death sentence today.  On April 26, Saudi Arabia announced a royal decree that would end the use of death sentences for children like Mohammed.  Yet, a loophole in this decree means that the judge in Mohammed’s case will still be able to sentence him to death. [1]
Reprieve has just taken on Mohammed’s case.  We are going to need to build up his campaign for justice quickly.

Reprieve needs your help to make sure the international spotlight is on Saudi Arabia.  We know they are sensitive to their public image right now, and we can use that to make sure they do not sentence Mohammed to death.

Please share Mohammed’s story today Facebook link or Twitter link

Together, the Reprieve community brings hope to people like Mohammed who have no one else to turn to.  Thank you for being a part of this community.

[1] “Saudi Arabia Says It Will Stop Executing Children. But Read the Small Print | Opinion,” Newsweek (May 18, 2020).  See below:

Newsweek link

See our monthly death penalty report


Today is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

This is a post by Reprieve which we are republishing today (26 June 2020) in view of its significance.  

Please spare a thought for Husain Moosa and Mohammed Ramadhan.  Husain and Mohammed are two victims among thousands in Bahrain’s broken justice system.  Reprieve works in Bahrain to challenge the rampant use of torture in cases where it is used to put people like Husain and Mohammed on death row.

Reprieve are asking will you chip in and help them end the use of torture in Bahrain and beyond?

Reprieve are challenging Husain and Mohammed’s death sentences.  Their so-called ‘confessions’ are the only evidence used against them – and the Bahraini authorities obtained them using torture.  If we win their case in Bahrain’s highest court, we will save their lives and have the chance to set a game-changing precedent in the small country, signalling that torture can never lead to justice.

This case isn’t easy.  Proving to Bahraini courts that their own justice system failed Husain and Mohammed requires a lot of creativity and time from our investigators, lawyers and campaigners.  And that’s why I need your help to keep this work going.

If you visit the Reprieve site you will be able to contribute – even a small amount will help.


See some of our previous stories about Bahrain:

Salisbury firm alleged to be selling spyware to Bahrain

F1 and human rights in Bahrain

Theresa May’s visit to Bahrain


Zakia’s husband was one of the 37 people killed in a mass execution in Saudi Arabia on April 23, 2019

Saudi Arabia has taken my husband, and now won’t let us grieve. My children and I want to bury him and pay our respects. We deserve that much. Zakia Albakheet

These executions happened without warning, so Zakia and other families never had the chance to say goodbye.  Now, Zakia is fighting for the right to bury her husband, Abbas al-Hassan, whose body was never returned. Together, we can help.

Will you share Zakia and Abbas’s story from Newsweek with your friends and family, marking the anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s 37 illegal executions one year ago today

The Saudi government beheaded Zakia’s husband despite multiple protests from the United Nations.  It was an injustice – and it continues so long as the Saudi authorities prevent her from burying her husband, and mourning his death.  Abbas deserved a fair trial and a fair chance at justice. He didn’t get it. Now, a year after his execution, his wife Zakia deserves the chance to say goodbye. With your help, we can make sure her story is known and that Saudi authorities are held to account.

The Reprieve community has shown that the Saudi government is sensitive to its image on the international stage.  Together, we have kept the stories of Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher in the public eye and continue to push British politicians to speak up for them.

Together, we can fight for Zakia to have the chance to say goodbye to Abbas.  Please share their story in Newsweek with your friends and family.

Source: Reprieve


Reprieve have highlighted again the plight of Ali al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia
Arrested as a minor and confession achieved through torture

Ali al-Nimr was 17 years old – a minor – when he was arrested on 14 February 2012 in Qatif, a town in Saudi Arabia known to be a centre for pro-democracy demonstrations.  After his arrest, officers of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate interrogated and tortured him.  Ali signed a confession that one of his interrogators wrote for him, even though he did not understand what he was signing. Throughout his interrogation and prior to his trial Saudi authorities denied Ali the right to speak with a lawyer.

Reprieve, in a recent communication say:

Ali has spent the last 6 years on death row with the threat of execution hanging over him.  A threat made worse by coronavirus.  Our investigators, lawyers and campaigners are working hard to free Ali and others who were sentenced to death as children in Saudi Arabia.

With your help, we’ve made sure Ali’s life has been protected so far by making sure British politicians speak up for him. But this is not an easy campaign – and it’s not one we can pause for a moment, even during this pandemic.  20 April 2020

Amnesty has campaigned on his behalf and a post with the mother’s story can be read here.

When Ali’s story first surfaced, the UK’s shameful role in promoting Saudi Arabia’s membership of the UN’s human rights council was revealed via Wikileaks.

Reprieve notes that Saudi has executed its 800th individual in 5 years.   Since King Salman bin Abdulaziz came to power five years ago, the execution rate has doubled from the previous 5 years.

We urge you to take action and this can simply done via the Reprieve site the link for which is below:

https://reprieve.org.uk/take-action/

Picture: Amnesty

Sources: Reprieve; Amnesty International; American for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain; Independent

[update 22 April with different picture]

 

 

Justice denied – again

Posted: January 14, 2020 in Florida, USA
Tags: , , ,

Justice for Kris Maharaj has been denied again in Florida.  After all the work that was done to prove that he was innocent, he still languishes in gaol after 33 years.  It was hoped his hearing – already delayed by several months – would have been heard this month and he would be freed.  But now it has been delayed again, this time indefinitely.  You can read the full story by Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve who must be close to despairing that this rotten US justice system will ever admit its mistake and release him.


The disgraceful treatment of this man in Florida continues.  The American justice system shamed

WE attach the latest message from Reprieve about this man’s continuing incarceration in Florida despite his innocence being demonstrated beyond doubt.  We have written about this case before.

Every time I [Clive Stafford Smith] think that Kris Maharaj cannot be subjected to any more injustice, agents of the State of Florida comes up trumps.  I last visited Kris in the euphemistically named South Florida Reception in September.  I went to share the good news that the Magistrate Judge had set a hearing for October 17th.  This meant we would finally be allowed to prove that his trial was manifestly unfair – and the last 33 years he’s spent in Florida’s prison system are unjust.

I should have known the devastating impact of a broken justice system could not be remedied so quickly – 33 years and counting.  The Magistrate had already agreed that we had submitted proof such that no reasonable juror could now convict Kris of the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young in Room 1215 of Miami’s Dupont Plaza Hotel all those years ago on October 16th, 1986.  We dismantled every element of the prosecution case against Kris, and obtained sworn testimony from six unimpeached alibi witnesses who placed him far away. Kris even passed his lie detector test: the prosecution’s star witness did not.

Lastly, we lined up half a dozen Colombian cartel witnesses who expressed shock that Kris was locked up for killing the Moo Youngs.  The murders were a hit ordered by Pablo Escobar, they said – the Moo Youngs had been stealing from the Narcos and “had to die.”  One might imagine that this would be sufficient for Kris to be restored to the arms of his long-suffering wife Marita, but under current U.S. precedent it is – we are told – possible that a fair trial should come to the wrong result.  Hence, logic mandates, the mere fact that you are innocent is not enough: you must prove the trial was itself marred.

I stayed with Marita the night before my prison visit. She lives a lonely life in Florida, only permitted to visit her husband every week or two.  Those visits are sacred to both of them.  The only disciplinary sanction Kris has got in the last three decades he has spent in prison involved a violation of the visitation policy – he stole a second kiss with his wife, when the rules only allow one.  Marita’s cottage is a shrine to the life they once had, with pictures of the couple in their London heyday, when Kris was a self-made millionaire.

She served me breakfast at the table where, every Christmas for the past 33 years, she has set a place for her husband, maintaining the fantasy that he might walk in any moment.  In the prison visitation area, Kris and I planned for his hearing. Though the Magistrate had only given us three weeks to prepare, we would meet the deadline. After all, it meant that Kris and Marita might – at long last – actually share their Christmas dinner this year.

AFTER 26 years working on the case, we were ready to prove multiple constitutional violations – from the suppression of exculpatory evidence (a government informant told them in 1986 that the cartel committed the murders), to the fact that the judge had himself been arrested on the third day of the trial for taking a bribe from a law enforcement agent posing as a drug dealer.

The first slap came with the State’s request for three months extra to prepare. That may not seem much, but it takes us into 2020, by which time Kris will be 81-years-old and Marita 80.  The potential knock-out blow came the next day when the State filed an appeal, to try to prevent the hearing altogether.  For 20 pages they argued that Kris should be barred from presenting evidence at all.  It is all nonsense, of course.

They even had the gall to argue that we have not been diligent in pursuing proof of innocence, when I have been to Colombia and back to get it.  We will do what we have always done: trudge on towards justice, hoping to persuade the appellate judge to respond with expedition.  Meanwhile the State’s lawyers callously run down the clock on Kris’s life.  I do sometimes wonder how people sleep at night.  I know I have often not been able to in the 26 years when Kris and Marita have been my responsibility, but that is because I fear I have not done enough, rather than too much.

I am working with Kris and the team at Reprieve to prepare for Kris’ trial in January. Hopefully, no other blows hit us between now and then.  Kris and Marita should not have to spend any more time apart because of an unfair trial 33 years ago.

Thank you for reading,

Read our latest death penalty report.


If you live in the Salisbury/Amesbury/Downton area and would like to join our group you would be most welcome.  You can come to one of our monthly meetings which take place on the second Thursday at 7:30 in Victoria Road Salisbury or come along to one of our events and make yourself known.  Keep and eye on this site or on Facebook or Twitter to see what we have planned.


This is a post from Reprieve concerning the death penalty in Egypt
Children are still being tried

Four years ago, the Egyptian Government committed – on the world stage – to end the death penalty for children.  But, despite this commitment, a loophole in Egypt’s Child Law continues to allow children to be tried alongside adults on capital offences.  Children in Egypt remain at risk of the death penalty. That’s why some of my team are in Geneva this week.

My colleagues working against the death penalty in Egypt are at a United Nations event this week.  Our aim is to make sure other countries like the UK hold Egypt to account on its failed promise from four years ago. We’re doing this in the lead up to Egypt’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN on November 13th.

That means we only have a few weeks to make the case to every other country that Egypt needs to be held accountable for its failure to close the loophole and protect the human rights of children.  The more countries that speak up and put pressure on Egypt, the more likely they are to close the loophole.

In turn, UK officials are more likely to step up if they see that this is something UK citizens care about. That’s why we need your help in spreading this campaign, getting more signatures, and gathering as much support as possible for ending the death penalty for children for good.

Please could you add your support.

Facebook link

Alternatively go to supporters@reprieve.org.uk


Briton now has to wait until January for his release

In a recent post we described the situation Kris Maharaj has experienced in Florida USA where he has been imprisoned for 33 years for a crime he did not commit.  There was to be a hearing on 17th of this month but we have just heard from Reprieve that this has been put back until January.   The message from Reprieve is copied below:

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Since you wrote your message of support to Kris Maharaj and his wife Marita, I’m sorry to say there has been a frustrating development.  Kris’ chance at justice was set for October 17th – but yesterday we heard it will not even happen this year.

That’s because the Florida Department of Corrections immediately sought and was granted a 90-day extension until January 18th 2020.  90 days may not sound like a lot, but Kris and his wife Marita have already been waiting 33 years for this nightmare to end.

Any delay is an injustice – and this will take us almost to Kris’ 81st birthday. We need to make sure they do not lose hope.

Can you share this latest instalment of injustice with your friends and family and ask them to add their own words of support?  Here’s a suggested message you can send them:

Kris is a British man who was charged with a murder he could not have committed.  Yet he remains in a Florida prison.  His chance at justice has again been delayed, this time for another 90 days. Add your words of support to Kris and his wife Marita as they endure the latest instalment of their ordeal: https://act.reprieve.org.uk/page/s/send-a-message-of-support-to-kris-and-marita

Or, you can share this story on Facebook or WhatsApp using the below buttons.

 


UPDATE:  Reprieve have sent through a request to send a message of support to Kris and this can be accessed here.  (24 September 2019)

We report – via Reprieve – the good news that a Briton held for 33 years in Florida, has gained the chance of release about 4 years after it was proved he was innocent.  We have received an email from them which is reproduced in full below:

I’ve [Clive Stafford Smith] just had some incredibly exciting news on the case of Kris Maharaj, the Brit who has already spent 33 unjust years in Florida’s prison system for a murder he did not commit. Kris will finally have an evidentiary hearing on October 17th.  The meaning of that might not be initially obvious, but I assure you it’s a very significant development. It’s one I have been pushing for, for a long time.  It means that Kris finally has the chance to prove in a US federal court that he should not have been deprived of his liberty for more than three decades, let alone have been sentenced to death.

I’ve been involved in more than 400 capital cases over the years, and Kris’ is the greatest injustice of them all.  Evidence uncovered in 2014 proved beyond doubt that Kris is not guilty of the murders for which he has been imprisoned.  The state trial court nevertheless refused to order a new trial at the time.  That’s why I’ve been pushing for a Federal evidentiary hearing.

When I took on this case back in 1993, I had no grey hairs.  Twenty-six years on, you’d be hard pushed to find a hair on my head that isn’t grey or white – and a fair number of them have been caused by the traumas of Kris’ case. But just imagine the impact of the last 33 years on Kris and his wife Marita.  It is hard to believe that we could get justice after all the crushing disappointments we’ve been through over the years, but perhaps – just perhaps – Kris will finally come home for his first Christmas in more than three decades.
The possibility of justice would never have arisen were it not for the kindness of all his supporters.  Both Kris and Marita have said their hope wouldn’t have lasted this long without the support they get from the Reprieve community.

It’s going to be a busy month ahead as I prepare for this hearing, but the Campaigns team at Reprieve will be in touch to update you in the run-up to the 17th October.  Thank you, as always, for your support of Reprieve so we can help many people like Kris and Marita.

We reviewed on these pages, a book, Injustice, on this case by Stafford Smith making the point how unsound the American system is.   So Kris is likely to walk free but it is important to bear in mind that he might have been executed by now.  The book goes into remorseless detail about the inadequacies of the American trial system.  We are conditioned by Hollywood films and TV about how heroic it is but for the poor, the system is rotten.  The police do not have to release evidence to the defence (defense) which helps the defendant, a situation which happened in the UK before PACE was passed.

This is an uplifting story but tragically, he has had to spend over 3 decades in gaol for a crime he did not commit.

A search of his name comes up with a photograph of him with the caption ‘Kris Maharaj, murderer’.

Piece by the Sun newspaper on this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 


We receive a reply from the state of California

Think of California and we call to mind Hollywood and the film industry, Silicon Valley and major companies such as Microsoft and Google, cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, important universities such as Caltech, the home of surfing, and altogether a state which is a pace setter in the world and one which is much admired.  There have recently been some TV adverts in the UK promoting the state as an exciting place to visit.

But there is a dark side which is that the state is keen on the death penalty.  USA is the only country in the Americas to retain this penalty and California is one of the states which retains it in the Union.  The web site Death Penalty Information Center gives the statistics for those executed and on death row and explains that the county of Los Angeles has more prisoners on death row than any other county in the USA.  California has 741 inmates on death row (2015).

Last year there was an attempt to end it with something called Proposition 62 which failed.  Proposition 66 to retain it was successful.  So the state will continue to execute.

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.  It is ineffective as a deterrent, mistakes – and there are many – cannot be undone and it is a barbaric and uncivilised practice.  Juries are less and less willing to convict if they know the defendant may be executed.  During the course of the debate about the propositions Amnesty members wrote in favour of 62 as part of the consultation process.  Anyone who has doubts about its use as a penalty should read Clive Stafford Smith’s book on the subject reviewed here.  Chapter after chapter reveals the unfair processes which lead to someone ending up on death row.  Poor defendants cannot afford proper counsel and failures in the trial can mean avenues of defence are ‘procedurally barred’ at an appeal.

Response

We have just received a reply from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Motto: A Safer California through Correctional Excellence) in the state capital Sacramento with over 30 pages of material.  Essentially it contains detailed information of a bureaucratic nature concerning how the death penalty is to be administered.  There is something ghoulish about such a document and reading the fine grain of how someone is to be put to death.  There are pages and pages of details and we can only provide a short extract here.  Hannah Arendt’s phrase ‘the banality of evil’ springs to mind.   Here are some extracts:

inmates sentenced to death shall have the opportunity to elect to have the punishment imposed by lethal gas or lethal injection.  Upon being served with the warrant of execution, the inmate shall be served with CDCR Form 1801 – B (Rev 10/15), Service of Execution Warrant […]  subsection 3349

the inmate shall be notified of the opportunity to elect lethal gas or lethal injection and that, if the inmate does not choose either lethal gas or lethal injection within ten calendar days after being served with the execution warrant, the penalty of death shall be imposed by lethal injection.  […]

Infusion Control Room means the space allocated for the Lethal Injection Chemical preparation area and is the room designed to accommodated the Infusion Sub-Team designated members of the Intravenous Sub-Team, the Team Administrator Team Supervisor, designated members of the Record Keeping Sub-Team, San Quintin Litigation Coordinator  and one representative each from the Governor’s Office, the Inspector General Office and the Attorney Generals Office.  Subsection 3349

The Team Administrator shall ensure training on the lethal injection process is provided to each Lethal Injection Team member.

Ensure the inmate has a copy of the current California Code of Corrections, Title 15, Division 3, for review of general rules and procedures that shall be utilized during the days leading up to the date of execution.

The Lethal Injection Chemical selection shall be done on a case-by-case basis, taking into account changing factors such as the availability of a supply of chemical.  The San Quintin Warden shall make the selection in consultation with medical personnel and notify the CDCR Secretary of the selection.

Inform the inmate that he/she shall be executed by lethal injection, the Lethal Injection Chemical and amount to be used, and document this information on CDCR Form 1801-A (Rev. 10/15), Choice of Execution Method.

Refer the inmate to the Intravenous Sub-Team for a vein assessment to determine the size, location, and resilience of the veins.  The vein assessment shall identify the primary, backup, and alternate backup locations.  […]

[information] shall be used to determine if there is good reason to believe the inmate has become insane, pursuant to Penal Code Section 3701.  […]

Accommodations for the last meal shall be reasonable and not exceed a fifty dollar $50 limit.

Thus far, it has been 20 pages of material concerning the events leading up to the execution.  The document begins to become more gruesome when it starts to describe the actual execution process itself:

After the inmate is secured in the Lethal Injection Room, the Intravenous Sub-Team members shall […] inspect the restraints to ensure they do not restrict the inmate’s circulation or interfere with the insertion of the catheters. p22

#1 -60cc syringe containing the specified amount of the designated Lethal Injection Chemical shall be administered, followed by a consciousness assessment of the inmate; the Intravenous Sub-Team Member shall brush the back of his/her hand over the inmate’s eyelashes, and speak to and gently shake the inmate.  Observations shall be documented.  If the inmate is unresponsive, it will demonstrate that inmate is unconscious.  The process shall continue as follows:

#2 -60cc syringe containing the specified amount of the designated Lethal Injection Chemical shall be administered

[then syringe #3; #4; #5 then a saline flush] p23

If, following the administration of syringe #1 the assessment indicates the inmate is not unconscious, the Intravenous Sub-Team member shall check the catheter for patency.  After checking for patency, syringe #2 shall be administered followed by a second consciousness assessment of the inmate in the same manner [as described earlier] […]

Picture: Boston Magazine

In the event all six syringes from Tray A have been administered, the ten minutes countdown has elapsed and death has not been declared, the Record Keeping Sub-Team member shall advise the Team Supervisor, who will then advise the Team Administrator and the San Quentin Warden.  The San Quentin Warden shall direct the Lethal Injection Chemical administration process set forth in subsections (43) – (8) be repeated, but using the backup intravenous catheter and the six syringes from Tray B.  p24

This paragraph is then repeated and ends with the use of Tray C. It then goes on:

In the event of all six syringes from Tray C have been administered, the ten minutes countdown has elapsed and death has not been declared, the San Quentin Warden shall direct the Infusion Sub-Team to prepare a set of five addition syringes of Lethal Injection Chemical, each containing 1.5 grams of Lethal Injection Chemical.  The Lethal Injection Chemical shall be mixed according to the manufacture’s instructions.  A medically trained Infusion Sub-Team shall prepare the syringes.  A separate medically trained Infusion Sub-Team member or Intravenous Sub-Team member shall verify proper preparation of each syringe.  The Warden shall direct the Record keeping Sub-team member to initiate the ten minute countdown and the Infusion Sub-Team to administer a syringe containing 1.5 grams of the Lethal Injection Chemical in the alternate backup intravenous line, and wait for ten minutes.  If the inmate’s death has not been declared by the end of that ten-minute period, the San Quentin Warden shall direct the same process be followed until five syringes have been administered.  If at any time during this process the inmate is declared dead, the administration of Lethal Injection Chemical shall stop.

This paragraph is then repeated to say that if the inmate is still not dead after another ten minutes then the process is repeated.

In the event that all ten syringes of Lethal Injection Chemical referred to [in the document] have been administered, ten minutes have elapsed, and death has not been declared, the San Quentin Warden shall stop the execution and summon medical assistance for the inmate as set forth in subsection (d) p25

The meticulous detail and the amount of injections which might be necessary and the successive periods of waiting to see if he or she has died – to see it all methodically described and set out in laborious detail is decidedly chilling.


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Clive Stafford Smith is a member of Reprieve